Foaming in Commercial Dishwashers and Glasswashers: Causes and Solutions

Posted by Sara Malcom on

Foaming in commercial dishwashers and glasswashers is an issue that can cause concern for many business owners and operators. While it's common to believe that the machine itself is the culprit, foaming tends to be a result of what is put into the machine. Whether it's the use of incorrect or poor-quality detergents, leftover residues, or even the hardness of the water, these factors influence the creation of excess suds in your dishwasher or glasswasher. Fortunately, understanding these factors and taking the right precautions can resolve this common problem. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the reasons behind foaming and provide actionable solutions to keep your machines running efficiently and your dishes spotlessly clean.

Why Is My Commercial Dishwasher/Glasswasher Foaming?

Inadequate Rinsing of Dishes Before Loading:

The most common cause of foaming in glasswashers and dishwashers is residual soap left on glasses and crockery from the pre-rinsing process. This soap mixes with the wash water and detergent during the wash cycle and leads to foaming.

Improper Detergent Use:

Using poor-quality quality detergents and rinse aid that are not suitable for commercial dishwashing can often lead to excess suds. Poor quality detergents might not dissolve properly or might contain ingredients that are not compatible with commercial dishwashing. This can cause an imbalance in the water-detergent mixture, leading to foaming.

Incorrect Wash Temperature:

Foaming often occurs when the commercial dishwasher or glass washer has not been provided enough time to get up to temperature before being used, as rinse aid can foam when mixed with cold water.

Improper Cleaning

Foaming can occur when soap residue is left in the machine from cleaning. This soap mixes with the wash water and detergent during the wash cycle and leads to foaming.

Water Softness:

Different areas may have varying levels of water softness. Soft water has fewer minerals and required less detergent to create foam, whereas the higher mineral content in hard water areas means more chemicals are needed to produce foam. Misjudging water softness can result in overuse of detergent, which can lead to excessive foam.

Rinse Aid Misuse:

Rinse aid helps water to sheet of glasses and crockery assisting with the drying process. However, if excessive amounts of rinse-aid are being used during the wash cycle it can also cause foaming.

Mechanical Issues:

Damaged or malfunctioning parts like detergent and rinse aid pumps or dispensers may lead to the wrong quantities of chemical being dosed which can lead to foaming.

Protein-based Foods:

Some protein-based foods like eggs or milk can contribute to foaming. The proteins may react with certain chemicals in the detergent or rinse aid to cause foaming.

How to Fix a Foamy Commercial Dishwasher / Glasswasher

Preventing foaming in commercial dishwashers and glasswashers is not merely a matter of following instructions; it's about understanding the underlying factors and addressing them with meticulous care. Here's a deeper look at the key strategies:

Ensure Proper Pre-Rinse:

Why It's Important:

If pre-rinsing with soap, residue will mix with the water during washing and lead to foaming.

How to Implement:

When pre-rinsing dishes, make sure to thoroughly rinse off any soap. Train staff on proper pre-rinsing procedures and ensure that they understand why it's crucial to remove all soap residues.

Use the Right Detergent:

Why It's Important:

High quality detergents specifically designed for commercial machines have the right chemical composition to clean effectively without creating unnecessary suds.

How to Implement:

Stick to high-quality, commercial grade detergents and rinse aid that are specifically formulated for commercial dishwashers and glasswashers. Training staff on the importance of proper chemical usage can also help to prevent this problem.

Ensure Correct Wash Temperature:

Why It's Important:

Cold water can react with the chemicals in rinse aid and cause foaming.

How to implement:

Allow 20-30 minutes for your commercial dishwasher or glass washer to reach the correct wash temperature before use - between 52°C and 55°C for glass washers and 60°C to 65°C for commercial dishwashers.  

For machines with drain plugs, it is important to make sure that the drain plug is correctly fitted and no water is escaping. A loss of water will cause the wash temperature to fall which may lead to foaming.  

Ensure the Correct Cleaning Procedure is Followed

Why It's Important:

Using a soapy cloth/towel to be cleaning the machines interior can leave soap residue which mixes with the detergent and wash water to create foam.

How to implement:

Steer clear of any soap-based products when cleaning the machine. All that is required is a cloth/brush and warm water.  

View our Commercial Dishwasher and Glasswasher Cleaning Guides for step-by-step instructions on the correct cleaning and maintenance procedures to follow.

Ensure Optimum Detergent & Rinse Aid Dosing

Why It's Important:

Using more detergent and rinse aid than needed can lead to foaming. Too little can result in poorly cleaned dishes.

How to Implement:

Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on appropriate dose of detergent and aid. As discussed earlier, the optimum dosage may vary depending on the water hardness of your area, so if you are unsure we recommend contact the supplier for confirmation.

Check Water Softness:

Why It's Important:

Water softness affects how much detergent is needed. Hard water may require more detergent while soft water needs less.

How to Implement:

Regularly test the water softness in your area and adjust detergent usage accordingly. In hard water areas, a water softener can mitigate foaming. Consult with a water treatment specialist for the best solutions.

Regular Maintenance and Inspection:

Why It's Important:

Mechanical issues or residue buildup can contribute to foaming. Regular maintenance ensures that the machine is working efficiently.

How to Implement:

Schedule regular maintenance and inspections. Consider preventive maintenance contracts with professionals who specialize in commercial dishwashers and glasswashers.

Properly Handle Protein-based Foods:

Why It's Important:

Protein residues, like egg and milk, can react with detergents and cause foaming.

How to Implement:

Pre-rinse dishes that have come in contact with protein-based foods. Use special cleaning options designed for proteins, if available, or manually scrub these residues before loading them into the machine.

Summary: Preventing Foaming for Optimal Dishwasher and Glasswasher Performance

Foaming in commercial dishwashers and glasswashers can be a problem, but it's one that can be easily solved with the right knowledge and care. Understanding why foaming happens and how to fix it involves using the right products, following guidelines, and regularly maintaining your machines. By taking these simple steps, you can prevent foaming, keep your machines working efficiently, and ensure that your dishes are cleaned properly. Investing a little time and effort into solving this common issue will lead to a smoother operation and a more successful business. In the end, these best practices are essential for maintaining cleanliness and efficiency in any commercial kitchen.

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